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Channing, Grace Ellery, 1862-1937. Papers of Grace Ellery Channing, 1806-1973: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: 83-M201
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Channing, Grace Ellery, 1862-1937
Title: Papers of Grace Ellery Channing, 1806-1973
Date(s): 1806-1973
Quantity: 14 linear feet (14 cartons) plus 2 folio folder, 1 folio+ folders)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, writings, etc., of author Grace Ellery (Channing) Stetson.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 83-M201
This collection was purchased by the Schlesinger Library from Dorothy Chamberlin and Walter Chamberlin in September 1983.

Processing Information:

Preliminary inventory: May l985
By: Adelaide M. Kennedy,Jane S. Knowles,Lucy Thoma

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Grace Ellery Channing is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Grace Ellery Channing Papers, 1806-1973; item description, dates. 83-M201, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Grace Ellery Channing Additional papers, 1884-1976 (MC 626), Charlotte Perkins Gilman papers, 1846-1961 (177), and Charlotte Perkins Gilman papers, 1846-ca.1975 (MC 588).


Grace Ellery (Channing) Stetson, author, was born on December 27, 1862, in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of William Francis Channing and Mary (Tarr) Channing. Her grandfather was William Ellery Channing, the founder of the American Unitarian Church, and her father (William Francis Channing) was an inventor who patented a portable electro-magnetic telegraph (1877), an electric fire alarm, a ship railway, and other inventions. Channing was educated in private schools, graduated from the Normal Class for Kindergarten in 1882, and taught in the free kindergarten on Fountain Street in Providence. In 1885, Channing became ill with what was suspected to be tuberculosis, and moved with her family to Pasadena, California. Channing had been a friend of Charlotte (Perkins) Stetson Gilman, and it was to the Channing family that Gilman came with her daughter Katharine in October 1885, when her health and her marriage were breaking down. Channing and Gilman together wrote and produced several successful plays. Gilman returned East and Channing followed her; during the winter of 1887-1888 they lived together and Channing gave Gilman moral support during her separation from her husband, Charles Walter Stetson. They again collaborated on a play and Channing helped Gilman sell property, settle her debts, and move west in October 1888. Gilman settled in California, and, after three attempts, was divorced from Charles Walter Stetson in 1894.
Meanwhile, Channing left California and made a lengthy visit to Europe with her friend Augusta Senter, traveling in Italy and Germany from October 1890 until November 1893. In June 1894, shortly after Gilman's divorce, Channing and Charles Walter Stetson were married. In May Gilman had sent Katharine, now aged nine, east. From this time Katharine made her home with the Stetsons; she regarded Channing as her second mother and kept in close touch by letter throughout Channing's lifetime. In December l894 the Stetsons left Rhode Island for good and returned to California, where they remained until their departure for a ten-month tour of England, Italy, and Germany in August 1897. On returning from Europe, they briefly visited Pasadena, and then settled in Boston. In a 1917 letter to Mrs. Chase, Channing recalled that in l902 Charles Walter Stetson was "emerging from the long eclipse which had temporarily made him unable to do anything...into ten years of serene and great work." At that time, Charles Walter Stetson reached the height of his fame, exhibiting fifty paintings in five major cities. He was hailed as a great American colorist and compared to George Innes. In April the Stetsons and Katharine settled in Rome, where they could live more cheaply than in the United States. Their circle in Rome included Elihu Vedder, painter and poet, Diego Angeli, art critic, and Franklin Simmons, sculptor. Their residence in Italy was made possible by loans from Mary and Clarence Wood (Channing's sister and brother-in-law). Channing wrote and sold many articles and stories; in return for financial assistance, she helped prepare Elihu Vedder's autobiography for publication. Despite deafness and continuing poor health, Charles Walter Stetson worked successfully in Rome, selling principally to American tourists. He held two major exhibitions: in Rome, l905, and in Paris, l9l0. He died on July 20, 1911, on the eve of his return to the United States for a major exhibition, from complications after intestinal surgery.
Channing returned to the United States in l9l2 and organized an extended touring exhibition of Charles Walter Stetson's paintings that was shown in Boston, Washington, and Toledo. Unfortunately, his style had fallen out of favor; he painted neither the impressionist, the realist ("Ash-Can"), nor the modernist style (exhibited in the Armory Show, 1913). Channing was unable to sell his work and feared that the paintings would have to be auctioned off to pay the cost of warehousing. In 1916, Channing was accredited as a war correspondent and traveled to France and the Italian front. From 1918 to 1937 she lived in New York, increasingly concerned about debts, low income, and her poor health. She died on April 3, l937.
Channing was one of three children in a close but troubled family; throughout her life she kept in constant touch with her siblings and helped them through personal and family crises. Mary Channing Wood married twice and was plagued by poor health, marital problems, and worries over her children. (Her daughter Dorothy was divorced in 1916, and her son Ellery was estranged from his parents.) Harold, Channing's brother, was frequently committed to institutions because of alcoholism and mental illness; he drifted from one casual job to another, eventually settling down as a gardener in California. Except for Mary Channing Wood, the family had constant money problems.
Channing began her career as a writer by editing her grandfather's memoirs, Dr.Channing's Notebook (l887). Her earliest essays were published in the periodical Land of Sunshine (later Outwest); they featured mentally and physically infirm easterners who came west and found health, happiness, and spiritual renewal. After her visit to Italy in l890-1893, Channing wrote articles describing Italy for the American audience: "What lessons Rome can teach us," and "Florence of the English poets." Many of her stories in Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Saturday Evening Post were didactic and dramatic portraits of women who found happiness in self-sacrificing love for and dependence on good men, or who nobly endured the weakness of their partners and lived and suffered happily ever after. The Sister of a Saint (l895) and The Fortune of a Day (l900) were collections of short stories concerning heroines who suffered beautiful martyrdoms. A collection of poems, Sea Drift, was published in 1899.
As a war correspondent, Channing wrote about the Italian front and Italy's part in the war. Her stories and poems criticized exemption from military service, encouraging the war effort and the "100 percenters" and idealizing the sacrifice of wives and mothers who encouraged their menfolk to enlist. Channing's political views, expressed in articles and letters to the editors of numerous newspapers, were extremely conservative: she admired Mussolini, expressed disappointment over Woodrow Wilson's handling of the peace, and condemned "the [Franklin D.] Roosevelt crowd". Her poetry idealizing war and war heroism won much praise.
As an author, Channing was well regarded in her lifetime both for the didactic quality of her stories and as a stylist. In a critical essay in 1905 the editor of Harper's praised her "subtle disclosure of truth...in English that was not simply reproachless, it was satisfying..., having the positive charm of sureness and ease." William Dean Howells wrote (1908), "Your work I constantly admire in Harper's where I can assure you that all Franklin Square unites with the public in valuing it."


This collection of family and professional papers is divided into four series:
Series I, Channing family and personal papers (l-258), consists of photographs, biographical and genealogical data, clippings about Channing, Channing family estate papers, and correspondence from three generations of the Channing family. (For William Ellery Channing's correspondence and Channing's typed transcripts of his correspondence, see #360-364.)
First generation (28-60): letters and scientific notes of William Francis Channing, and letters and autobiography of Mary (Tarr) Channing describing her upbringing in a New England factory town, where her mother kept a factory boarding house.
Second generation (61-207): correspondence of Channing, her siblings, Mary (Channing) Saunders Wood and Harold Channing, and her husband Charles Walter Stetson.
Third generation (208-258): correspondence of Dorothy (Wood) Houghton and Ellery Channing Wood, and correspondence of Katherine Beecher Stetson Chamberlin and her family.
Series II, General correspondence (259-336), consists of letters to Channing from distant relatives, friends, and artists and writers such as Elihu Vedder, William Dean Howells, Mary Austin, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In addition to letters from Gilman, there are several groups of correspondence that throw indirect light on Gilman: Channing to her parents, 1888 (61-64); Channing to Katharine Beecher Stetson Chamberlin (105, 129-130, 138); Katharine Beecher Stetson Chamberlin to Channing (218-219); and others to Katharine Beecher Stetson Chamberlin (225, 228).
Series III, Editorial and other business activities (337-354). Fan mail, correspondence with publishers and literary agents, and correspondence with museums and galleries about Charles Walter Stetson's paintings.
Series IV, Writings (355-474), consists of typescript and manuscript drafts of stories, plays (including plays written in collaboration with Charlotte Perkins Gilman), poems, articles, and clippings of Channing's printed stories, articles, and reviews.
Three books, Sister of a Saint, The Fortune of a Day, and Sea Drift, have been removed and added to the Schlesinger Library book collection. Charles Walter Stetson's poems and letters to Charlotte Perkins Gilman and letters from Dorothy and Walter Chamberlin to Charlotte Perkins Gilman have been moved to the Gilman collection. For additional biographical and critical information about Channing, see Charles C. Eldredge, Charles Walter Stetson: Color and Fantasy (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 1982); Mary A. Hill, Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Making of a Radical Feminist, 1860-1896 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980); and the entry for Charlotte Perkins Gilman in Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), vol. 1.



Container List

Additional Index Terms

American literature--20th century
Authors and publishers
California--Social life and customs
Drafts (preliminary versions)
Family records
Italy--Social life and customs
Lodging-houses--New England--History--19th century
Manuscripts (for publication)
New Englanders--Family relationships
Providence (R.I.)--Social life and customs
Rhode Island--Social life and customs
World War, 1914-1918--France
World War, 1914-1918--Italy
World War, 1914-1918--Journalists
Addams, Jane, 1860-1935
Agresti, Olivia Rossetti
Aldrich, Amey
Austin, Mary Hunter, 1868-1934
Barney, Nora Stanton Blatch
Blatch, Harriot Stanton, 1856-1940
Broun, Heywood, 1888-1939
Channing family
Channing, William Ellery, 1780-1842
Channing, William Francis, 1820-1901
Fiske, Minnie Maddern, 1865-1932
Gillmore, Inez Haynes, 1873-1970
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 1860-1935
Gilman, George Houghton, 1867-1934
Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
James, Henry, 1811-1882
Lummis, Charles Fletcher, 1859-1928
MacDowell, Marian, 1857-1956
Prang, Louis, 1824-1909
Robinson, Edwin Arlington, 1869-1935
Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 1815-1902
Stanton, Theodore, 1851-1925
Stetson, Charles Walter, 1858-1911
Stetson family
Stetson, Katharine Beecher, 1885-1979
Stowe, Lyman Beecher, 1880-1963
Vedder, Elihu, 1836-1923
Ward, Lydia Coonley, 1845-1924